Men in women’s jobs

Interesting article about men entering jobs in which the majority of workers are women. Two points in particular:

  1. “Men earn more than women even in female-dominated jobs. And white men in particular who enter those fields easily move up to supervisory positions, a phenomenon known as the glass escalator — as opposed to the glass ceiling that women encounter in male-dominated professions, said Adia Harvey Wingfield, a sociologist at Georgia State University.”
  2. “Betsey Stevenson, a labor economist at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, said she was not surprised that changing gender roles at home, where studies show men are shouldering more of the domestic burden and spending more time parenting, are now showing up in career choices.”

Religion, suicide and the financial crisis

I leave the UK for a study trip to Cyprus this afternoon but while I was preparing I was reminded of something a Cypriot trade unionist friend told me a while ago.

We were in a seminar discussing the various aspects of the financial crisis on union members with other European colleagues when the issue of suicide was raised with many reporting increases in their countries.

According to my friend the rate in Cyprus was artificially low–indeed virtually zero–due to the power retained by the Orthodox Church in Cyprus and the desire of people to have church funerals. This makes it difficult to ascertain the impact of the crisis on workers in this ultimate of measurements.

The only international comparison I could find of suicides (quickly, as I have to pack) was OECD figures but their database only provides up to 2009. The chart above shows the rates of OECD countries, which doesn’t include Cyprus.

Interesting to see how many of the lowest rate countries all have strong religious establishments of different shades, including Orthodox, Catholic and Jewish. I wonder whether they really do have the lowest rates.

Please do refute.

The Hands that Feed Us

New report on workers in the food chain (in the US)

New Report

“I’ve had … many a bad job, but this is the worst.”

The Guardian

According to the firm who used them, these long-term unemployed folks ‘volunteered‘ as unpaid or underpaid (£2.80 per hour) security staff for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Consider, however,  the ILO’s interpretation of their convention on forced labour, in which:  ‘the consent of workers is irrelevant when there has been deception or fraud, or the retention of identity documents in order to achieve this consent.’ (Belser 2005) Or consider the ILO’s (2005) indicators of forced labour, which include: ‘dismissal, or exclusion from future  employment.’

My point is not that this is (or is not) forced labour. My point is that saying these folks ‘volunteered’ is no excuse. Using unpaid and underpaid staff in deplorable conditions to celebrate royalty, and claiming that this is for their own good, is unacceptable.

21 million in forced labour – new ILO estimate

The International Labour Organisation has updated their estimate of the number of people in forced labour after seven years. They now give a ‘conservative estimate’ of nearly 21 million, replacing their 2005 ‘estimated minimum’ of 12.3 million. So the figures ‘can’t be compared.’ Most importantly, in spite of the higher figures, we don’t know whether the number of people in forced labour has gone up or not.

At first glance …

  1. Some of the stats are now presented much more clearly: for example, the estimate clearly indicates that 55% of those in forced labour are female (a majority, but certainly not an overwhelming one – so perhaps we should stop treating this as an issue affecting women in particular, and instead consider how gender shapes labour rights and labour outcomes).
  2. On the other hand,  some of the regions are defined differently. It seems that while the estimates for a) Latin America and the Caribbean and b) Asia and Pacific have gone up slightly, all the other regions have gone up dramatically. I am not sure what to make of this yet. But the dramatic increases include the region ‘Developed Economies and European Union.’ This is still thought to have the lowest incidence but upping the estimate significantly probably seems like a good thing.
  3. The distinction between ‘forced sexual exploitation’ and ‘forced labour exploitation in economic activities’ is still deeply problematic. It implies that either sex work is not labour, or that the sex industry is not economic. Compared to the 2005 estimate, the percentage thought to be in state-imposed forced labour is way down (now 10%), the percentage in ‘forced labour exploitation’ in the private economy is up slightly (now 68%) and the percentage in ‘forced sexual exploitation’ is up significantly (now 22%).
  4. According to the new estimates, ‘9.1 million victims (44 %) who have moved either internally or internationally. The majority, 11.8 million (56 %), are subjected to forced labour in their place of origin or residence.’ I think this is new (although admittedly I might have forgotten something from the 2005 report) and quite interesting. Forms of forced labour depend a lot on their context. And in Europe or the US we might think its all about (im)migration – apparently not everywhere!
  5. Kevin Bales is probably feeling vindicated right now, given his 1999 estimate of 27 million people. (NB: I admire him for bringing attention to this issue, but also try to critique some troublesome aspects of his analysis.)
  6. Which leads to the next point. Has anything changed about the ‘ghettoisation‘ of this issue? What does this estimate of forced labour say about work, labour and employment in the contemporary (capitalist) economy? Comments welcome.

(And, yes, this new estimate prompted me to return to the blog after giving up about a month ago…)

Regional pay is not for the likes of us


Top (US) recruitment firm supports (UK) regional pay but not for the highest paid.

Daniel Hibbert is Principal at Mercer and allegedly a ‘Public Sector pay specialist‘. Though he seems not to have grasped that any regional pay would continue to be centrally bargained by unions, lest there by all manner of agitation in the provinces:

“The arguments are strongly in favour of local pay decision making as this ensures that public sector services can adapt jobs, pay systems and the underlying talent and HR processes quickly and in a cost-effective manner to suit local needs,”


Beautiful pictures of shipbreaking in Bangladesh with accompanying article. The work does not end when the object has served its purpose – and it’s hard labour.

(Apologies for posting days later but I was travelling again.)

Organising in Lebanon

While the Guardian lays out the grave problems faced by migrant workers in Lebanon, here is a glimpse into inspiring efforts to challenge this system and the structures which underlie it. Happy May Day!


Suicide Threats ‘Not a Strike’

The Guardian; Photograph: Qilai Shen/Corbis

I am amazed sometimes when workers are able to use whatever they can in struggling to better their conditions. In the case of Foxconn (see earlier posts), threatening suicide seems to have become an important tactic. Forbes, meanwhile, is upset that people keep talking about Apple when Foxconn also produces for Microsoft.

The Crime of Working

I have to admit ignorance here: I did not realise that the anti-immigrant law in Arizona (currently being debated by the Supreme Court) would make it a crime to work without the proper immigration status. It striked me as especially ironic given that in the last decade or two, the failure to work has increasingly been treated as a punishable offense.

Doug Mills/The New York Times